Kara and Hannah Tointon on Mr Selfridge, Strictly and finally acting together

The sisters play the new daughters of retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge in the third series of ITV's period drama

The third series of Mr Selfridge jumps forward several years to the end of the First World War where we find the titular businessman’s daughters looking rather different: more grown-up and a lot more alike.

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That’s because Rosalie and Violette Selfridge have been recast and real-life sisters Kara and Hannah Tointon have stepped into those dainty shoes, the former best known for EastEnders and winning Strictly Come Dancing, the latter for her roles in The Inbetweeners and Hollyoaks. 

Below, they reveal what it was like acting together and that they’re not so very alike after all…

Kara Tointon (right) on her sister

Hannah being born is one of my earliest memories: me at Nan and Grandad’s house, and Dad running in saying, “It’s a girl!” 

Mum goes a bit Barbara Windsor when she says hello, and apparently the first time I held Hannah I mimicked her – “Hel-lo, darling!” Because Hannah is four years younger [she’s now 27], I used to speak for her. The danger when we do interviews together now is that I still do and she doesn’t get a word in edgeways!

When I was seven I was diagnosed as dyslexic and my parents decided to enrol me in speech and drama classes. They wanted to find something I could be good at. I’m still slow at learning lines and I’m lucky that Hannah has always helped. I hate read-throughs: as soon as I have to read out loud I become very nervous.

My dream was to go to drama school, but having worked from when I was 11 to 18, I couldn’t face taking myself out of the game for three years. By the time I landed EastEnders at the age of 21 [playing Dawn Swann], I yearned for a steady job, rather than always worrying about the next part and if I might not work for a year. I’m the kind of person suited to knowing where they’re at and soaps are the nearest thing to a nine-to-five job.

Hannah is peaches and cream – I love her complexion – whereas I’m olive-skinned and a bit of a sun-worshipper. We’re the same dress and shoe size, which was a good and bad thing when we were living together and would bicker over who’d borrowed what!

She thought my doing Strictly Come Dancing in 2010 [which she won] was an awful idea. She said: “Don’t do it. If you do I won’t talk to you because you’re going to be a nightmare.” I loved every minute of it!

It’s like you’re picked up out of real life and plonked in this world of glitter. You don’t have to think about anything but dancing for months. It was like a holiday – well, a very intense boot camp! And obviously I met Artem [Chigvintsev, her professional dance partner, with whom she had a three-year relationship], which was wonderful while it lasted. 

I hate the showbiz side of the job. You can’t walk down the street without someone taking a photo that’s immediately online. You can be out in a group of 20 people, but they write that you were on a date. I’m an open book, but it makes you so wary. You can’t have a dry sense of humour because they’ll write it as fact. So you become very closed and worry about what you say. I really admire people who just don’t care. I do and it’s not an industry to be in if you care too much. Hannah is thicker- skinned.

I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone a few times. I give things a try and oops…oh dear, that went wrong. Whereas Hannah knows what she will and won’t do, and doesn’t waver. She’s probably learnt from all my mistakes! 

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Turn the page to see what Hannah says about Kara…